Autumn is my favorite time in the garden. But after a hot start to autumn and no sign of frost yet (touch wood!) things feel a bit out of whack, with tomatoes, pumpkins and zukes still flowering. Normally I’d have a crop of greens in, a green manure, and even garlic and broad beans planted. No space yet! But I am enjoying the prolonged summer vege harvest. Eggplants and capsicums have been exceptional this year.
Remember to harvest in the corresponding sign, eg. root day for potatoes or carrots, fruit/fire sign for pumpkins or eggplants, flower sign for broccoli. This will help with storage and keeping qualities.
It does feels like the weather has finally turned this last week, into autumn proper. Think about planting leafy greens which will feed you right through winter if planted now and into May. It’s also a great time for planting herbs and perennials, shrubs and trees, and for striking cuttings of herbs and many other edible plants.
Remember to feed the soil after harvest and before you plant your next crop. Add compost or organic soil conditioner/fertiliser, rock dust, some lime or dolomite, dig it all through and you’ll be ready to plant. After such a good season as the one we have just had, the crops will have taken up a lot of soil nutrient which need to be replaced. Some crops are heavy feeders, so soils will need more replenishment. On that note, it’s also a good time to apply BD fish emulsion – see here for notes on how to apply ours – or buy your own through Ernst and Rosie.
Think about making compost with the residues of harvest and also utilising the autumn leaf fall – litter from deciduous trees can make a top (and quick) potting or seedraising mix if mixed with lime and constantly turned. You can also finely chop/mulch and dig back the crop residues straight into the soil (but be quite wary – put any plant residues you suspect have disease problems in the hot compost). A handful of lime will help the breakdown and ‘sweeten’ the soil.
I usually remove straw mulches as the weather cools – mulches can intensify frost – and also harbour pesky critters like slugs, snails, slaters and millipedes.
Also consider crop rotation; it is good practice to rotate between leaf, root, fruit and flower crops and never follow with the same crop (you may be able to get away with it for a season or two but disease and nutritional problems are more likely). Mustard is a good disease break which can be grown now, as well as nitrogen fixing plants like peas and broad beans. So consider a green manure of these in your crop rotation, to grow through autumn and winter.
The first application of biodynamic preps for the year – BD500 – is also a job for this month, given the right conditions. This means late in the day for BD500, with moon descending, waning and in a root or leaf sign, plus even better if conditions are overcast or moist. You can follow with BD501 as a balancing force, but ideally it wants the opposite – early morning spray, moon ascending, waxing and in a flower or leaf sign.
Enjoy an active April in the garden.
Gardening Dates for temperate areas of SE Australia:
Leaf Days: 4-7, 14-16, 24-26: amaranth, bok choi, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, celery, coriander, endive, mibuna, mizuna, orach, rocket, tat soi, lettuce, mustard, silverbeet, chard, spinach, chives, garlic chives, coriander, dill, parsley
Fruit Days: 6-9, 16-19, 26-28: broad beans, mustard, peas, snopeas, peas
Root Days:1-2, 8-11, 19-21, 28-30: beetroot, carrots, celeriac, fennel, garlic, garlic chives, bunching onion, kohlrabi, leek, parsnip, radish, daikon radish, swede, turnip
Flower Days: 2-4, 11-14, 21-24, 30: broccoli, borage, cauliflower, all flowers (poppies, lupins, calendula, etc)
Moon Opposite Saturn (considered a good date for sowing seeds, applying preps and planting, or 48hrs either side): 3, 30
Node Days (avoid planting if you can):7, 22
Apogee (moon furthest from earth; less lunar influence):15
Perigee (moon clostest to eath; more lunar influence): 28
New Moon/Full Moon: 26/11
Moon descending: 1-3, 17-30
Moon ascending: 3-17
Apply soil fertilisers, compost: 1-3, 26-30
Prune, take cuttings, plant seedlings: 1-2, 28-30 best then 19-21, 24-26
Apply foliar fertilisers: 3-11
Graft: 3-4, 11
Dates are a guide for these particular crops. Timing will vary from region to region (particularly with climate change) and even within a garden’s own microclimates. Of course, rainfall, weather conditions and your own schedule will influence when you garden.